“See the positive side, the potential, and make an effort.” ~ Dalai Lama
When you think back to your childhood, what memories flood your mind? It wouldn’t be surprising if it were the times you felt hurt or embarrassed. And when someone praises you and then provides criticism do the words of praise fade away because you focus on your weakness?
Why are people so negative? Is it hardwired or can it be changed? What can you do to focus on the positive?
Interestingly, scientists have discovered that the brain handles positive and negative information in different hemispheres. That’s good news! Because if the brain “handles it”, we are in control of how we process negativity and positivity.
Let’s first consider what generally happens when we hear or experience negativity and why it takes on a stronger influence, and then we’ll discuss what we can do to rewire our brain to focus on the positive.
We focus on negative emotions more.
We live in a world of negativity – think about the news cycle! And while bad things happen every day, we don’t have to let that bring us down. We can mindfully choose to focus on negative emotions less and positive emotions more.
We dismiss or downplay compliments and positive feedback.
The key to “seeing the positive” is cultivating a spirit of appreciation and gratitude. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have or can’t do, look for what’s going right; what’s possible; what you do have. Tell yourself, “I work hard”. Tell yourself, “I’m capable”. Tell yourself, “I’m doing the best I can do right now!” And believe it! It helps to also record sincere praise from others in your gratitude journal and savor it. This is a powerful exercise.
We process negative information more thoroughly – going over it again and again.
When going through terrible situations, it’s okay to grieve, and be hurt, angry, disappointed, or embarrassed. But you don’t need to stay in that space, dwelling on it. It’s your choice to look on it as a learning experience. Ask yourself: “How do I want to handle this next time?”, rehearse that and move on.
We tend to see people who say negative things as smarter and we give greater weight to criticisms.
Perhaps because children are praised for too many meaningless things, they don’t get the opportunity to build up resilience when they do receive negative feedback. If you’re bombarded with critical comments, stop them and say “Let me process this. I can only handle only one critical comment at a time.” And when you give feedback, make it constructive and do so sparingly.
We remember words that follow criticism more clearly than those that come before.
It’s best to offer feedback first and then follow up with positive comments. Therefore, reframe feedback you hear in this sequence – criticism first, positive last. When you look for the good in others, and you’re kind, supportive and encouraging, it produces a snowball effect in that it becomes easier to see the positive in yourself.
We use stronger words to describe negative events than happy ones.
For example, have you described a negative event this way “It ruined my day!”? And then turned around and described a positive event with “It was okay.” Give more weight to positive events by learning to experience and describe them differently.
It all boils down to what we choose to see. In every person, in every situation, there is something good. Most of the time, it isn’t obvious. It’s easier to glance at a situation, see the negative and go with that. If you want to empower your life with more positive thinking, please feel free to contact me to schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” complimentary consultation with me so we can explore a coaching partnership.
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” ~ Wayne Dyer
Are you a “glass half full” or the “glass half empty” kind of person? People tend to look at life situations one way or the other. We all know it’s exactly the same glass – the difference is how you view it.
It’s not always easy to tell when negative thinking is taking over. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we’re being “realistic” rather than negative. Or we’re so used to negative thoughts we think they’re normal and we don’t recognize the impact they’re having on our life.
The following list is compiled to help you make an honest self-examination. (If you feel yourself getting defensive, it’s a good indicator that you have some work to do, which wouldn’t be surprising since today’s society is saturated with negativity.) This list is not intended to make you feel “less than” anyone else, but rather to spark keener self-awareness.
- You default to worrying, fear, and are always on the lookout for bad news.
- You don’t reveal much information about yourself, because it “could be used against you”.
- You love retelling bad news in great detail and you put a negative spin on good news.
- You have thin skin, viewing innocent comments as condescending, rude, or offensive.
- You whine and complain a lot and use the word “but” often.
- You’re afraid to try anything new that’s outside your comfort zone.
- You hate getting out of bed because you don’t want to deal with life.
- You magnify anything that goes wrong until it’s dramatically tragic.
- You immediately list the reasons why a new opportunity won’t work.
- You hold back from taking part in activities because you’re too _____ (fill in the blank with what you perceive to be a fault).
- You talk badly about yourself.
- You can’t accept compliments.
- You assume something isn’t available, without even inquiring about it.
- You move to a new place, and everyone is “judgmental and mean”.
- You go on a vacation and its “ruined” by the weather.
- You delight in reciting what went wrong when you tried something new.
- You’re a victim – everyone else lives a charmed life where nothing bad happens to them like it does to you.
- You know that if something bad is going to happen, it’s going to happen to you.
- You tell everyone else how to live, but your own life needs sorted out.
- You find yourself running away from pain instead of toward pleasure.
- You don’t really know what you like, but you definitely know what you don’t like.
- You think other people are out to get you, and you jump to conclusions.
- You are an underachiever because you’re afraid of failing.
- You give up easily.
- You’re not excited about the future.
After reviewing this list, are you seeing that in some ways you tend toward negative thinking? You get out of life what you put into it. And a positive attitude is the main ingredient for a successful life.
Becoming a positive person takes effort, but it can be done. The first step is being willing to see that you’ve become a negative-minded person. (I don’t think you’re born that way. It’s something that you’ve learned, which means you can unlearn it.) This requires that you create a constant mindful awareness of your mental attitude. This often takes support to remind you of the positive things in your life. I’d be happy to partner with you. I recommend you take advantage on my Individual Somatic Coaching.
Stay tuned – in future blogs, we’ll discuss how to turn this negativity around. In the meantime, make sure you take the 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment, as it will help you pinpoint areas that being more positive will make you healthier and happier. Click here to download your free copy.